Descriptors like up and coming, fresh and new, and leading edge, at least in terms of food, can be applied in equal measures to both Oceanside and 26 year old young gun Chef Willy Eick, who has been trending rapidly upward since taking over the helm of Real Bar and Bistro a year ago. Chef Willy recently announced the opening of his new restaurant, 608 Mission (note: since the original publishing of this article, the restaurant name has been changed to 608), in Oceanside, formerly the site of Swami’s Cafe, and this news has Oceanside residents and chefs alike salivating with expectation.
One of Oceanside’s most respected chefs, Davin Waite of The Wrench and Rodent Seabasstropub said about the move, “I’m totally stoked about Willy coming up here. I can’t wait!”
This is a fast moving project with Willy leaving his current gig on May 22nd and opening 608 Mission’s doors on June 1st. Accompanying him will be newly promoted Sous Chef Felipe Orozco, who Willy admiringly describes as, “Extremely hard working, passionate, self motivated and always asking questions. He never sacrifices quality for speed…and always wants to put the best food out and see people smile…”
I guess it takes one to know one.
With a short one week window between his leaving Real Bar and Bistro and opening 608 Mission, Chef Willy won’t have much time in the new kitchen for menu development. So, naturally, strictly for research, I did what any incorrigible foodie would do and traipsed over to Solana Beach so that Willy could share some of the items that he will be serving up in the new space. Some of the following\ items are currently available on the Real Bar & Bistro bar & dinner menus, but they are Willy’s creations and will end up on the 608 Mission menu, albeit slightly tweaked and enhanced for his new restaurant and Oceanside style expectations.
Chef Willy has developed a unique style of combining classic, comfortable and familiar staples with bold flavors and seasonings which are exotic enough to be interesting without being intimidating. It’s a Middle America meets Asia just north of the Mexican border synthesis, a redux on West Coast fusion by a young chef who is unabashedly exploring the universe of possibilities and opportunities available to him.
Yet, there is a realism and awareness that accompanies and tempers the youthful idealism. Regarding the daunting task of opening his first restaurant, Chef Willy says, “I’m very young, so I might as well take the risk now before I have a bunch of responsibilities that can hold me back.”
Can I get an Amen?
The meal couldn’t have started any better than these spare ribs. They are slow cooked for tenderness and then glazed in a sticky, sweet, savory and ever so slightly spicy soy, ginger, chili glaze that had me using the gnawed and completely stripped bone as a caveman spoon to coax the last drop off the plate.
Take the tank top and flip flops off the fish taco, give it a collared shirt and a real pair of shoes and it would look like this showstopper. These tempura fried lobster tails with a sweet chili aioli were moist, succulent and rich. The question after eating this is: How long will it take before we start to suffer a worldwide lobster shortage? Word on the street (which means I couldn’t decipher my notes) has it there might be three of these to a plate at 608 Mission. If so, that’s a whole lotta lobster for the same price as a large beer at some other places.
These ain’t Grandma’s shortribs. Fingerling potatoes, fresh off the farm carrots, mustard greens – they’ve all been done before. But, marinate the short ribs for 24 hours, throw them on the plancha to sear them, marinate them for another 24 hours, then braise them in the marinade and dunk it, NAY – Slam Dunk it on a plate with house made Panang curry sauce, and you got a whole lot of Mmmm, Mmmm, Good going on there, my friend.
Yeah, we went back for more tacos. Duck skin this time. Deep fried to a chicharonne texture and topped with some of the classics – cilantro, onion and feta cheese (a salty accent). But the Jalapeno salsa is what pulled it all together…
…which brings me to something I noticed about Willy’s creations. There is a judicious use of spice and heat throughout each of his dishes. Heat and pepper, when done right, activate the tastebuds and accentuate even the most subtle of flavors in food, allowing them to linger on our palates along with the heat for a few extra moments. Given the inexact science of gauging the spiciness of any given batch of peppers, consistently nailing the heat level of his dishes in the low medium range without having it seem wimpy shows a remarkable combination of restrained assertiveness, with the experience of the diner clearly at the forefront of consideration.
I didn’t get to try this. It’s not even my picture. Chef Willy posted this on 608 Mission’s new Facebook page with a caption saying, “Bone Marrow with Shrimp Ceviche and Sourdough will most definitely be making the menu!” And I will most definitely be seeing you soon, Chef.
I happen to know for a fact that the strawberries on this deconstructed strawberry shortcake dessert were about as fresh as fresh gets. The night after this dinner, I watched as Luke Girling of Cyclops Farms waltzed into the Wrench and Rodent Seabasstropub in Oceanside with about 250 lbs. of these things in one arm and his wife on the other.
Didn’t I mention? Chef Willy and Luke go way back and Willy sources all of his seasonal produce directly from Luke’s Oceanside, organic certified farm in Fire Mountain, which is about 5 minutes from 608 Mission. Fresh enough for you?
Oh, and this de-constructed strawberry shortcake was pretty dang good, too, but, truth be told, these strawberries would have been spectacular if they were served in a bowl of sand.
Here’s the Rundown on 608 Mission:
Expect a casual, Oceanside style dining vibe when 608 Mission opens June 1st. The concept is still being refined, but they may be leaning toward counter service for the initial order, with table service once patrons are seated. The location is all in the name, 608 Mission Ave, Oceanside, located a few blocks west of I-5 with easy freeway access and good parking. Remember, this is Oceanside – the summer months mean more people and less parking, but it’s a great town to take a stroll in.
Expect a menu full of familiar ingredients combined in a unique fashion with a touch of spice in all the right places. Smaller portion sizes will range from $8-$12 per plate, encouraging exploration of a variety of offerings while dining. There will be wine and barrels and barrels of local beer. My kinda place – Cheers, my friends!
608 Mission Ave., Oceanside CA